CD Review: Arias/ Pumeza Matshikiza

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South African lyric soprano Pumeza Matshikiza’s second album Arias, released this year on Decca (478 8964) is a diverse portrait collection of operatic arias, art song and popular song from a very fine singer who has a glorious voice at her complete command.

The operatic arias are taken from the leading roles that Pumeza has performed, mainly at the Staatsoper Stuttgart where she has been a member of the ensemble for three years – Mimi in La Boheme and Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro. Added to these are arias from roles she has sung elsewhere, and arias from roles to come – amongst them, Liu in Turandot (Tu che di gel sei cinta), Dido in Dido & Aeneas (When I am laid in earth), Concepcion in L’heure espagnole (oh! la pitoyable aventure!), Song to the Moon from Rusalka and Ebben, ne andro lontano from La Wally.

It’s a thrilling sound from the graduate of the Royal Opera’s Jette Parker Young Artists Programme. With this handpicked repertoire Pumeza shows off her mastery, playing with the colours of her voice, the tone, phrasing and dynamic control to tell a cogent story – a poignant Liu, an innocent Mimi, a thrilling Concepcion, a seductive Creole girl.

The segue from Concepcion’s dramatic aria to the languid Latin rhythms of Yradier’s La Paloma is somewhat unexpected, but inevitable in such a varied in an anthology. Pumeza continues in an informal Latin vein teasing the tempo in Punto de Habanera from Cinco canciones negras by Montsalvatge and then presenting a bracket of three French songs Tosti’s Si tu le voulais, Faure’s Après un rêve and Hahn’s Baroque reinvention À Chloris which she sings with exquisite grace and delicacy.

The collection is book-ended with three more arias from late 18th century Italian opera – a rare gem, Lungi dal caro bene from Sarti’s Le gelosie villane, Giunse al fin momento….Deh vieni, from The Marriage of Figaro and Che fiero momento from Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice – before closing with Dido’s Lament.

Pumeza performs with the Aarhus Symfoniorkester from Denmark conducted by Swedish violinist and conductor Tobias Ringborg. The album was recorded at the Musikhuset in Aarhus, Denmark in June 2015.

The CD liner offers the full text of the songs in German, French, Italian and English. The Spanish songs replace the Italian text with the Spanish. There are biographical notes from Executive Producer Dominic Fyfe.

This is a voice well worth listening to. If there were a distracting element to the album, it is that it contains too much in the way of style and variation. However, the demands of an album are many – as well as entertaining the widest possible audience, it is an audition piece for demonstrating the performer’s abilities and for building roles and a discography.

To hear Pumeza sing live either in recital or in a complete operatic role, would be a memorable experience. Until then, her recordings will have to suffice.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©

Pumeza Matshikiza will be in Sydney August. Whilst she is here, she will perform at the annual Joan Sutherland & Richard Bonynge Bel Canto Dinner on August 25.



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